A diary from Greenbrier County, West Virginia, this day in 1897:
Today I murdered my wife. I mashed her windpipe and broke her neck, which might seem an overreaction to the fact that she had not cooked any meat for my dinner, but then, as my first wife would tell you, I am a cruel and horrible and violent man. My second wife would probably say the same, had she not died in mysterious circumstances shortly after our marriage. Zona, who I killed today, was my third wife. I hope to have seven eventually.
I won’t get a chance to marry a further four wives if I am hanged or imprisoned for murder. So I took various steps to cover my tracks. I laid Zona out on the bed and dressed her in a high-necked dress with a stiff collar, and placed a veil over her face. When Dr Knapp arrived to examine the corpse, I sobbed and wailed and cradled Zona’s head in my hands. That did the trick, and he did not inspect her too closely, noting that death was due to “everlasting faint”.
So everything went according to plan and I seem to be in the clear, free to find a fourth wife to terrorise and/or kill. The worst that could happen is that Zona might appear as a ghost, to her grieving mother, and spill the beans, and prove that I broke her neck by rotating her ghostly head in a full circle atop her ghostly body. But even if she does, repeatedly, over four nights, and Zona’s mother goes babbling her tale, an American court of law in the enlightened 1890s is not going to accept the testimony of a ghost. Is it?